Surprise flowers welcome in October

autumn auricula

Autumn Auriculas Back In Flower

England may have spent the 1st October on the beach enjoying the record breaking Mediterranean temperatures, but here in Highlands of Scotland there was drizzle, rain and more rain. I had to give up gardening mid-afternoon after the ground got so slippery, I went down the slope on my backside while carrying two buckets of dirt and got a thorough coating in cold mud.

Fortunately, one the skills gardening on an extreme slope has taught me is how to fall over well!

Despite the washout today, the temperatures have been reasonable, with no frost yet.  The past week was surprisingly warm and sunny given the miserable summer we’ve had.  The plants seem to agree – in fact I fear some have them got confused and think it is Spring already.

Surprise October flowers

The Auriculas I bought from Arbriachian Nursery back in May are back in flower and looking absolutely lovely.  My primulas, too, are flowering as well as they did in Spring.  I’m not sure what I should do with the Auricula next. I rather expected they’d be going dormant now, rather than coming back to life – if anyone knows whether I should feed them or doing anything to them after flowering, I’d appreciate the tips!

anenome wild swan

Anenome Wild Swan going strong

Also back in flower is the Anenome Wild Swan which I bought at Gardening Scotland in June.  This has really bulked up and is flowering better now than it was when I bought it.  I collected seed from this and my white anenomes earlier in the year – and loads have germinated – so hopefully I’ll get something interesting in about three years time!  I also need to investigate how to propagate it by division or cuttings, as it is so lovely.

Other surprising successes right now are the Godetia.  I originally sowed them March/April, but the seedlings all got eaten as I was hardening them off.  So I made a second sowing in later May and these are in full bloom now.  The bold pinks really give the garden a vibrancy more fitting to late summer and despite the drizzle, they make the pots look really cheerful.

Fuschia Thalia

Fuschia Thalia

The Fuschia Thalias that I used in pots barely flowered at all during summer, despite the strong cuttings having a healthy start and getting away nicely in late spring.  The cold weather, rain and lack of sun really held them back.  But they’ve finally come into flower.  So hopefully the frost will stay away so they can get a chance to shine, as they are really attractive and healthy looking plants.  I must also strike a few more cuttings before it is too late as they won’t overwinter outside.

These late treats are combining nicely with the autumn planting to keep both the front and back gardens looking bright.  The blueberries, viburnum, geraniums and acers are providing rich autumn foliage colours.  While the asters, colchium, late lillies, sweet peas, clematis and sweet williams are providing softly contrasting blues, whites, lilacs, pinks and whites.  If the frosts and winds stay at bay for a few more weeks, there will be plenty of colour into late autumn.

Some other highlights from the autumn garden

Neglecting my own garden but enjoying other people’s

Non-stop travelling for the last month, preceded by tedious and back breaking weekends of shifting buckets of soil from the top of the hill to the bottom, has left the garden thoroughly neglected.

Is it bothered?  Barely!  With the exception of a major grass cutting operation, it is chugging along regardless and I’m feeling just a little unnecessary.

sweet peasThe rudbekias and dahlias are looking lovely, the pelargoniums are still going strong and pentemons are still flowering.  Colchimums, nerines, verbana bonaries and the autumn primulas are coming to life.  Late lillies and tame crocosmia are still in bloom, a deep purple clematis is looking striking in a cherry tree and the late sowing of godetia (after slugs ate the first seedlings) are pink, frilly and very cheerful.

Blueberries are ready for eating straight from the bush and a fine apple crop is shaping up both front and back. Surprisingly, given the gales we had in Scotland while I was in the US, the sweet peas at the front are still in full bloom, despite me not being around to deadhead them.

Some serious weeding and tidying is required, along with some deadheading and pot revitalisation, but I must admit I was expecting to return to a lot worse.

A garden a world away from my own

berkley botanic gardenAlthough away on a business trip, I had the pleasure of making a visit to the Botanic Garden at the University of Berkley, California.  Right up in Strawberry Canyon, on the Hayward Fault in the hills above San Francisco Bay, the garden is both hot and sunny (seasonally arrid) and yet still gets plenty of rain in autumn and winter.  It is not dissimilar to Mediterranean climates like Cyprus.

I was expecting American, arrid, Mediterranean and desert planting – but the garden was so much more than that.  A lovely old rose garden (heavenly musky smell), a fabulous little garden of foodstuffs of the world (where I saw my first caper plant!) and a lovely herb garden.

The edible garden was quite incredible – the climate had made all the fruit and vegetable goes mad – there was a purple sprout stalk taller than me and the most amazing purple beans.  Even some plants (like the caper) that I had simply never seen before, or didn’t know were edible.

It is rightly described as one of the United States best plant collections, but it was also a stunning series of gardens.  The gardens are displayed in a series of geographies, with California naturally a major part.

There were particularly interesting Japanese and Chinese gardens, also an impressive Australian garden.  Though I’m not usually into grasses, there was a beautiful drift of South American plain style planting which caught my eye – golden knee high stalks, mixed in with cotton grasses.  Not a look I’d ever want to replicate, but beautiful in this context.  Even the cacti, which usually leave me cold, were stylishly planted and very impressive.

fabulous flower combinations

Now if I could just replicate this combination!

Some lovely flowering plant combinations meant I took loads of pictures in the vague hope I will remember them and replicate them – nowhere was this more true than in the Japanese & rose garden.

I enjoyed it more than the famous Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco and the gardens at Stanford that I’ve visited in previous years.

If you’re ever in the Bay area, I highly recommend at trip over to Berkley’s Botanic Gardens – and if you’re feeling fit and the weather is not too hot, the walk up Strawberry Canyon from Berkley campus is also a lovely one.  The smell of eucalyptus, rosemary and various pines and cyprus will transport you to another world!